You can’t promise that

This may be one of my favorites:

In spite of the fact that I am a fan of Journey, I can’t help but notice a trend with much music in the past century. Isn’t interesting that so many people make promises like this? “I’ll be faithful; I’m with you forever… I’ll never break your heart (thanks Backstreet Boys, for that one).” Every day while I’m at work I am subjected to the “I’ll love you forever and never leave you” crapola that we call music. We can say whatever we want when we sing or make promises, but who’s to say that we can keep those?

Only Jesus

To many, this sounds too cliche, but consider the words of Paul on which this blog site is based:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I am pleased to say that only Jesus can make the promise that He will love us forever because only Jesus is in eternity and can look ahead to say that with confidence. All other people in this world will fail us in some way or another and we will fail many others as we live out our lives. But praise be to God who saves us through His Son Jesus and gives us His Spirit that He might be able to say of us, “Mine. Forever Mine!”

And the thing is- with Jesus, He actually makes good on His promises. So God tells Abraham that his descendants will be as numerous as the stars; He delivers (starting with two sons in a very old age). He tells Jacob that his descendants will never be blotted out as long as the seasons continue in their course; even today Israel is still present in this world. He tells His people of a coming Messiah who will save all who believe in Him; Jesus comes and fulfills that promise.

 

There is much comfort to be had there for the child of God.

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Pitting God’s attributes against each other

Last month I posted on the Love of God so I appreciated this clip from Mark Driscoll regarding Hell:

We tend to disagree with God about who he is and then label it “following him.” It is a sad reality, but we have seen it in ever increasing amounts as the years go by. We must uphold the truth of the gospel as the good news about God and the bad news about hell. Any gospel which denies one is no gospel at all, but instead a lie of the devil. I like what Augustine says to this effect:

If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself.

Also, it’s awesome to see how God uses good, exegetical, expository preaching in order to speak to current issues. No one listening to this sermon can say that Driscoll is just preaching this because of Rob Bell’s newly released theology (here, here and here). Driscoll is simply following the order of Scripture and this one was next in line (see his series on the book of Luke here).

Love is God?

How would you define true love? Is it emotions? a choice? A mix of the two? What about biblically speaking? What is love according to the Scriptures? In a recent interview, a top Christian recording artist made the claim that “true love is God.”

Yeah? And?

We are told in 1 John 4.8 that God is love. So, you may be thinking that we can say that phrase in reverse just as easily, right? As frustrating as it may be, proper semantics is actually extremely important to the message of Christianity. Here’s what I mean: the Bible supports the idea that God is love, that God is a lavishing God, a God that gives of himself incredibly to others. Here’s how the ESV Study Bible puts it:

John is not saying that God is only love (he has numerous other attributes), nor that love is God (a statement for which there is no scriptural support). “God is love” means that God continually gives of himself to others and seeks their benefit. There was eternal love between the persons of the Trinity even before the world was created (John 17:24), and God’s love is the ultimate source of any love that Christians are able to display (1 John 4:11, 12, 19).

And He manifests this love in the sending of His Son to die on the Cross for the sins of the world. This is the God who is love.

If love is god

Think about this for a moment. What if love was god? I imagine we would be very much in control of this god; a god who would depend on our decisions and emotions. This god would only ever be loving. There would be no judgment for sin, no condemnation, not even discipline, there would only ever be love, and a shallow love at that. There would also be no savior, because the need for one would be gone. If love is god, there is no wrath.

You may be tempted to like this god: “No judgment?” You think, “That would be great!” But think about it. Not only would you not face judgment and wrath, but there would be no punishment for the one who sinned against you either. And you could do incredible wrongs against this love, and get away with it! But our God is love and he has given of himself ever since he created the world. And what of our sin? He has lovingly placed it on His Son for our sake and given us His own righteousness out of that love.

If God is love, His wrath is directed towards His Son in the place of His people.

[rez-uh-rek-shuhn]

First off I must admit, I was struggling on how to present Christ’s resurrection here because, as a society, we seem to secularize a lot of things…

I take that back, we secularize everything.

For most of us, this means that Christ’s resurrection is one of those concepts we accede to, but it doesn’t really mean anything to us. The idea is just chillin’ in the back of our minds playing cards with Santa (and probably losing). We don’t seem to understand the true gravity of what it actually means. Let me put it into perspective.

Jesus died.

There really is no simpler way to put it.  But, because of his death, it was made possible for us to be reconciled to our Creator.

I stress the word, possible, because His vicarious sufferings mean absolutely nothing without the resurrection. In fact, if Christ had not risen, it would make Him a liar worthy of His punishment. We would be wasting our time on a worthless Word, and we would all be boned, screwed, doomed, star-crossed, whichever adjective you prefer. There is no way to communicate how bad it would be for us. (unless of course you Google image search epic fail).

In all seriousness, Just imagine what it would be like if Jesus was still in the tomb. There would be quite a few empty seats in heaven. But He did rise from the dead, despite what some people believe, and what we fail to completely comprehend. And it is only because of Christ being alive, that we are reconciled. There would be no forgiveness otherwise.  Again I stress, Jesus is alive, no other religious figure can boast in this. Not Buddha, not Muhammad, not one.

This video of Matt Chandler preaching through Luke 24, does a lot to help solidify how real and true it is that Jesus is alive.

So instead of a day of nice clothes, free candy, and egg laying bunnies (seriously, what the heck is up with that?) In place of that lets focus on the risen Christ, the lover, the conquerer, the King.

I got a real good 40 time…

Calvin and Hobbes is one of my favorite comic strips ever, mostly because I  literally was Calvin. I have never really outgrown the mischievous stage of a precocious six year old, and don’t think I truly ever will.  But, the reason I can muse with this strip is because of how well it represents our walk with God.  Other than the fact that Calvin ran from his Mom, (God is not female) it really is a perfect representation of how we run from Christ.

We Run, God chases. It’s never the other way around. (Rom 3.11) Christ chased after us all throughout time and it culminated at the Cross (though it’s not complete).  Christ cleared the proverbial hedge in order to pull us under His wing, Calvin’s Mom did the same thing for him. At the time, Calvin didn’t recognize that it was for his benefit, the chasing, the tearing away from what he wanted (playing ‘Spaceman Spiff’ in the backyard) to lead him toward something better…

I am directly parallel with Calvin here. I have an affinity for creating idols in my life, it’s easy and I am extremely good at it. Thankfully Christ has run me down, taken me out at the legs, and hog tied me with the Gospel. I still writhe, squeal, and try to bite, but Jesus always cuts me off at the chase.

Take a look at the book of Jonah, you’ll see a prophet mulling over his own racism and bigotry. Blatantly refusing to declare to Nineveh, the glory of Gods mercy. Despite Jonahs rejection of the Lords leading, God still goes after him, Having him tossed in the ocean and gobbled up by some giant fishwhale…

Just imagine how broken we would all be, if the first time we ran, God simply said “Fine, have fun in eternity, wear some shorts.” That would be pretty distressing. Thankfully He doesn’t say that, instead he says “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt 11.28)

We all may run, but thankfully, Jesus is a much better sprinter then we are.

Jesus Loves You…

Recently I finished Craig Gross and Jason Harper’s new book Jesus Loves You This I Know. To be completely honest, I was nervous when I began reading it. I have little tolerance for anything that advocates loving God at the expense of knowing Him. Honestly, I cringe when I hear people constantly say, “Jesus loves you, me, everyone…” without backing it up with qualifiers. The Bible never does this. For Instance, we read- “For God so loved the world that He sent His only Son…”, “In this we know God loved us, that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

There is always a qualifier. Hence my trepidation with this book.

The Good

But then I read it. Craig and Jason do a phenomenal job explaining the truth of God’s love and the judgment that was taken out on His Son. This is something that is severely lacking in American Christianity. We so often separate the truth of God from the love of God, so I was greatly pleased that they did not do this.

The book is ten chapters of the authors talking about their experiences with the love of God. From reaching the broken, the outcast and even religious with that love- Gross and Harper discuss what the love of God means for everyone. This truth of the love of God is extremely important for every believer today- especially for the religious (people like me). When ever things go wrong I default to religion. This kind of thinking results in thoughts such as, “my car broke down, what did I do wrong?” But what Craig discusses is the importance of knowing the love of God even if things are going wrong, even if you sin- and then Craig calls for repentance because of that love.

The point that they are getting accross is that God so loved the world that He gave His only Son. Yes, they mean the whole world. So our message to the world must be: God loves. What happens is we are so used to the fact that God loves us, that we ignore it in our witness of Him. They try to get us, the Church, back on track with the truth of how Jesus lived and loved. Their argument (and I think it is a valid one) is that Jesus wouldn’t be the protester outside of the porn convention, the bar, or the gay parade; He would be living among the people showing them His love and drawing them unto Himself with His Spirit. We are the light of the world and must shine. Gross and Harper understand that the Gospel offends while understanding that we don’t have to be more offensive than the Gospel already is.

The Almost Good

For all the good in this book, I would offer some caution. For one, Jason’s chapters are slightly off road at some points. Both Gross and Harper talk about Jesus beginning a revolution (which usually throws a red flag up for me) but then Harper talks about how Jesus was found guilty for loving (chapter 5). While He did love the unlovable, that wasn’t the cause of His crucifixion. Harper later corrects this by speaking of Christ’s claims to deity being the reason why He was crucified (to me, a redeeming section). I was also left wondering about the plight of the people in the stories the authors told. They would talk about how they have reached out in community (good) and loved the “unlovable” (great!) but then they would occasionally drop off with seldom mention of a call to repentance or the message of salvation. I don’t mean that I was looking for one of them to lead a homosexual in the sinners prayer (if you read some past blogs, you’ll understand my position on that). However, at some point while in community with people- we must fulfill the Great Commission and make disciples. This means so much more than just providing for physical and emotional needs, but it cannot be separated from providing for these needs. In other words- we cannot expect to fulfill the Great Commission of Christ if we sit back and only tell people that God loves them meanwhile not providing their physical and emotional needs of food, money, community, and friendship (see James 2.15-16). That is simply something to be cautious of. In their defense, they probably have been working towards discipleship, but it is a difficult thing to portray in a book.

Who Needs This?

The fundamentalist, conservative, legalistic Christians are going to have a problem with this book not talking about how everyone is a sinner going to hell (as I said, I had a hard time not reverting to that thought). But at the same time, the liberal, emergent types will probably hate the amount of time both authors spend at the Cross talking about God’s judgment on His Son. I think that’s why they wrote this- to make us all uncomfortable in a good way. Being a Christian is not easy, loving people as God loves them is even harder- but that is what God has called us to. We are to proclaim the message of Christ- the message that says, No matter who you are or what you’ve done, Jesus loves you this I know.

Buy this book here

When it comes to Phelps

In light of Fred Phelps and his numerous issues with… everyone, I thought it be best to touch on just some of the groups of people he hates.

Homosexuals

John Piper has some great insight on this topic. In the second paragraph (and at other times) Piper has affirmed that God will not judge America for accepting homosexuality, instead- the rapant tolerance of homosexuality in America (and the West) is due to our leaving of God. It is a part of His judgment of this nation. However, I would put the blame on so much more than just the nation- the Christians in this nation must step up and speak against sin in love and live the message of the Gospel. We have yet to do so as we should and thus bear a large part of the blame. In short, we never cease to love others- and by loving others, we mean focus on truly showing care for the people around us.

Jews

I seem to remember Paul saying something about the Jews… Romans 11:28 tells us, “As regards the gospel, they are enemies of God for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers.” To be honest, I don’t know the exact meaning of this verse (and would welcome help with it) but Paul says that the Jews are beloved for the sake of their fathers. So if they are enemies in regards to the gospel (as is everyone who is unsaved) and beloved at the same time, we again find ourselves in a delicate balance where the Bible (which should be our delight) tells us that everyone is our enemy- but also tells us to love that others may come to know Christ. So it is wrong to hate people just for being Jewish (I didn’t think we had to cover that again).

Blacks

This will be shorter as it is similar to the above statement. We once had slavery in America, and everyone used the Biblical commandments regarding slavery to support their ideals. However, virtually every theologian holds to the fact that American slavery is vastly different than Biblical slavery (in which case, I agree with slavery- according to the Biblical standards). However, this idea of slavery sticks with us to the point that we like to hate people who are different because they are supposedly lesser than us. But that is not the message of the Bible. The message of the Bible is that one day people from every tribe, tongue and nation will be glorifying Christ. This means man, woman, child, white, black, Native American, Jew, Gentile etc… will all be represented in the presence of Christ.

Catholics and Lutherans

Yes, we disagree with them (the Catholics more than the Lutherans). But to hate them and cause them pain is wrong. Instead, we should be showing Catholics that true salvation is only by grace and works are an outpouring of that grace. But I don’t know why he hates Lutherans- doesn’t he know that it was Luther who helped begin the very Reformation that allowed him to be Baptist?

Canadians, Swedes, Italians

That’s just silly. Regardless of what your stereotypes of these nations are- you should not neglect their needs. For instance, Phelps hates Italy because of the Mafia. But just because a notorious gang of criminals cam from that country, doesn’t mean that all Italians are Mob-bosses. I thought we had gotten away from ethnic stereotypes. But I guess if you don’t know the love of Christ, it’s easier to ignore loving people.

The U.S. Government

All I can do to speak against Phelps’ hatred of this group is quote Paul from Romans 13.1-7:

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. 5Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

If Paul can speak like that regarding the Romans, we can speak the same regarding our president.

Think about it- don’t hate- that doesn’t accomplish anything.

A message to Mr. Phelps- Jesus loves you, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Don’t ruin the message of the Gospel for your benefit.